Bard Prep Composition/Musicianship Teacher SHAWN JAEGER
has written an opera, Payne Hollow
, that will have its world-premiere performances at Bard on March 14 and 16. This is a super-huge opportunity for Shawn and we are very excited for him and proud to have such an accomplished composer as part of the Bard Prep faculty. It would be wonderful to have our Bard Prep families there to support Shawn and to hear his amazing music. See below for information on FREE TICKETS
to the performances for Bard Prep families and to read some of Shawn’s thoughts about the opera and the composition process. Congratulations to Shawn on this achievement and good luck with the performances!
Details about the Performances:
- Friday, March 14th at 7 pm
- Sunday, March 16th at 2 pm
Shawn’s Opera does not have anything inappropriate for children, but we recommend that children be at least 12 to attend. Bard Prep Families can get up to 4 FREE Tickets!!! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org by March 12th and let us know how many tickets you want. Tickets might sell out so please email soon if you want to attend.
Details about the Pre-Opera Talk:
Shawn is giving a Pre-Opera Talk about his piece this Friday, March 7 from 10:30 am – 12 pm in the László Z. Bitó ’60 Conservatory Building. Everyone is invited to come hear about the piece and Shawn’s experiences composing it. Prep Parents (and Bard Music Professors) Marka Gustavsson and John Halle will be performing the Brahms Violin Sonata in G Major as part of the talk.
You can also watch a video about Shawn’s Opera Here.
Shawn took a few moments between rehearsals to write about his opera for the Bard Prep community:
On March 14th and 16th, my one-act opera, Payne Hollow, will have its premiere at the Fisher Center, performed by singers from the Bard Graduate Vocal Arts Program and the Bard Conservatory Orchestra. The cast and orchestra are sounding awesome, and I hope to see some of the students and parents from the Preparatory Division there! If you come to the show, please say hi to me afterward!
My opera is based on the lives of Harlan and Anna Hubbard––two people that lived very differently from the way most of us do. In 1944, Harlan and Anna got rid of most of their possessions, built a shantyboat by hand, and set out from Brent, Kentucky, drifting down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers for the next six years, until they reached New Orleans. Can you imagine living on a tiny boat for six years, with no electricity? How would you cook? How would you figure out where you were without a GPS? For food, the Hubbards would fish in the river, forage for vegetables, nuts, and fruit on the river banks, and trade with people they met along the way. They didn’t have jobs, so they didn’t have any money, and they didn’t have a car, so they couldn’t go to the grocery store!
After six years on the shantyboat, the Hubbards returned to Kentucky and built a home (again, by hand, with driftwood and stones they found on the riverbank) at Payne Hollow, on the Ohio River. For the next 34 years, they lived there, much as they did on their shantyboat––without electricity, foraging for food, and playing music together. Harlan played violin, and Anna played piano.
My opera is set in the future, and it starts with two travelers coming ashore at night to find a place to sleep. The two travelers recognize the place they’ve come to as the place where the Hubbards used to live. They start to talk about the Hubbards, and then, to their surprise, they hear distant music––the music that the Hubbards used to play together! Then, the ghosts of the Hubbards appear, and start to talk to each other about their lives. At the end, the two ghosts reach out to one another and are transformed into their younger selves. Then, all of a sudden, the ghosts disappear, and we see the two travelers looking at each other, wondering if what they saw was real.
When you come into the Fisher Center before the performance, the lights in the hall will already be dark, and you will hear the sounds of frogs and toads singing. The music that I wrote for the orchestra tries to grow out of these nature sounds. I also decided to quote parts of one of my favorite pieces of music: Johannes Brahms’s Violin Sonata in G Major. This is one of the pieces that the Hubbards played together at Payne Hollow, so it seemed like a good choice to include it in my opera. At first, Brahms’s music is hard to recognize, but eventually it becomes more clear.
The words the singers will sing were written by the poet, environmental activist, and farmer Wendell Berry. He is 79 years old, and I was really happy that someone who could be my grandfather was willing to work with me! I got to meet Mr. Berry last May, and I was pretty nervous when I walked up his porch, but he turned out to be very kind. He was friends with Harlan and Anna Hubbard, and even wrote a book about Harlan.
Again, I hope to see some of you at the performances! My piece has a few scary moments, but nothing that is inappropriate for young children.